Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How to not get a PM job...

When I'm interviewing PMs for gigs, there are a few questions I ask to try and weed through the chaff...

One of these questions is "What is it you like best about project management?" If they look at me quizzically - like they aren't sure if this is one of those questions they are supposed to bring out the answer they read in the "How not to demonstrate any semblance of personality during a job interview" answers, then I follow with "What is it about being a PM that gets you up out of bed and to work every day?"

If you have any experience as a PM, and have honed your finely tuned sense of paranoia, you'll probably recognize this for the trick question it actually is. You see, what I'm doing, is trying to trick you into showing a little tiny bit of your personality.

Some of you will be tempted to start out with something like this...

Finishing my projects on time and on budget is the thing that keeps me excited about my job every day. I ALWAYS finish my work on time and on budget. (If you are stupid enough to tell me you finish your projects under budget, you may as well just start spitting on yourself or tell me that Gary Cherone is your favorite singer from Van Halen.) Either way, if finishing projects is your bag, there is a year's supply of turtle wax waiting for you by the door. There is a reason they don't call the job Project Finisher. Of course we all like to finish projects, but hell, most of them don't finish. If you told me your favorite part of the gig was suffering through the self-depreciation of killing your own projects you'd probably do better. At least that way you'd convey A) that you'd been doing the gig long enough to be a seriously jaded son of a bitch and B) you've completely lost the ability to discern what is appropriate to say in an interview. I dig that level of broken candor -it's got a certain Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now thing about it.

The second thing that will not get you hired is telling me you like project management because you like to be in control. I'd have to disagree with you there. You don't actually like project management and you can't control shit. However, you think need to tell me you can, which means you must be seriously weak in that area and you probably barely escaped the full blown mutiny at your last job by the skin of you chinny chin chin. Project Managers don't control anything. At best, we prepare, practice and react. We get all quantum Zen like and imagine the bow, the target and the arrow, which is both in the bow and the target. In fact, we are the bow and the target and since we are both the non-thing and the thing, how can anything be about control - right? Basically, if your thing is control, you are walking around in a red shirt. The gig is gonna stress you out beyond function. You'll beat down on everyone who doesn't act like your bitch just to establish CONTROL.

Bonus Round (Yoda was the mac daddy PMP)

Size matters not. If you are interviewing for a PM job and you need to be able to tell them you've managed projects of $___ amount, in order to convince them you have your shit together, then you are interviewing at a place that doesn't know anything about PM. Get the hell out - NOW! Size matters not. Not money, not length, not number of tasks. It is all about how you manage break it down and keep it organized and clear.

So, to wrap it up... If you want to be a Project Finisher, do not interview for a Project Manager position. If you want to be in Control, puppeteers are in great demand... somewhere... probably. And most of all, its' not the size of your baseline, but how well you work against that puts the "i" in your PMP.

Next time... be like water